August 25, 2009
The ChowPapa threw out his back on Sunday. He was Completely. Laid. Out. That means I was Completely. In. Charge. Now don’t get me wrong—I like being in charge—but at 8 months pregnant, I’m not physically (or, truth be told, even emotionally) capable of handling the responsibility with my usual enthusiasm and grace. So, needless to say, by dinner time, I was completely wasted. A goner. Useless.
Thankfully, I’d thrown together a simple vegetable stew during the ChowBaby’s nap time. The plan was to make some chicken to accompany the stew, but that wasn’t happening. So vegetable stew for dinner it was. No meat. No rice. Just vegetables and some leftover chickpea curry for the boys.
Now, before you start feeling bad for them, there was a LOT of stew. Plenty of food to fill all of our bellies. But despite their valiant attempts (or, at least the ChowPapa’s attempt) to appear satisfied, I think they felt like something was missing. Maybe it was the fact that Isaac said, “Mmmm. I’m thinking of meatballs,” as he wolfed down string beans.
I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a little while. Didn’t seem summery enough to post yet. But, in honor of my carnivores, today, I give you a stick to your ribs meal of pulled pork over cheese grits.
I was inspired to make this after a visit to Calexico Carne Asada, a local Mexican joint that also has a Vendy-award winning NYC food cart. Their pulled pork is delicious (and, I’m sure, cooked way longer and with more delicate mindfulness than mine) and makes a surprisingly satisfying meal over grits. I never feel a loss ordering this at a place where I can also get great tacos and burritos.
This was not a meal for which I’d planned ahead. I made it on a Sunday afternoon, so I had time, but I was also busy with other things and needed the cooking to be low maintenance.
I happened to have a large, bone-in, center cut pork loin on hand. It had a decent enough layer of fat, so I went for it, but there are cuts way better for pulling. Look for butt roast or shoulder if you plan ahead. This worked fine, though (had great flavor and stayed moist when packed with a lot of it’s cooking juice), and serves as a lesson in making do with what you have on hand. And because I needed this to be easy, I sent the ChowPapa to get instant grits. Again, not ideal, but worked like a charm.
Low-Maintenance Pulled Pork over Cheese Grits
(can be served to kids 12+ mos)
3 tbsp organic vegetable oil
1 organic onion, chopped
3 organic hot peppers, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each (optional)
2 tsp organic cumin
2 tsp organic oregano
1 4-5 lbs bone-in center cut pork loin (or pork butt or shoulder, w/ or w/o bone)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp organic tomato paste
20 organic whole coriander seeds
4 organic bay leaves
1/2 bunch organic cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
1 c dry white wine
1 quart organic chicken or vegetable broth
instant grits (make according to package for as many eaters as you’ll be feeding)
organic cheddar, shredded
organic avocado slices, for garnish (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Saute onions, peppers, cumin, and oregano.
2. In the meantime, rub pork with salt and pepper. When onions and peppers begin to caramelized and spices are fragrant, add tomato paste. “Toast” for about a minute, then add pork, fattiest side down. Brown each side of your pork roast.
3. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 3 hours. During this cooking time, you want the liquid to be at a low bubble.
4. The meat should be tender and cooked through after about three hours, but it’ll be even better after 4! Remove lid and cook one more hour, allowing juices to cook down and thicken a bit. (The resulting sauce is not meant to be a thick gravy or BBQ sauce, rather a light, flavorful au jus.)
5. In the last 1/2 hour of cooking, make grits according to package. Finish with butter, shredded cheddar, salt, and pepper to taste. (I followed instructions for 4 servings of grits and finished with an extra tablespoon of butter and about 4 oz of shredded cheese.)
6. When your pork is done, remove it from the pot and let it rest. In the meantime, skim the au jus removing whole seeds, bay leaves, and wilted cilantro. When pork is cool enough to handle, shred it! Serve shredded pork over grits, top with au jus, slices of avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro.
Note: Unless you’re making this for a crowd, you’ll have tons of leftover meat. Pack some, in au jus, for later in the week and put the rest in the freezer for a meal sometime in the near future.